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New Michigan Services timetable shows shorter trips after rail investments
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New Michigan Services timetable shows shorter trips after rail investments

A new schedule took effect for the state-supported Blue Water and Wolverine services starting on January 22, 2018, replacing the one that had been in effect since June 26, 2017, reflecting significant improvements in running times thanks to upgrades to tracks and other infrastructure geared for 110 miles per hour service in the near future.

On the Wolverine (Chicago-Detroit/Pontiac, three round trips daily), overall running times for the three eastbound Wolverines are much shorter: 21 minutes less for the morning train, 17 minutes less for the mid-day train and 12 minutes less for the evening train. And it’s the morning Wolverine that now calls at Michigan City, Indiana, at 8:28 a.m. Eastern time – instead of the mid-day train which stopped there at 1:58 p.m. – while the evening train leaves Union Station 10 minutes earlier (5:50 p.m. Central instead of 6 p.m.; that train also stops in Michigan City).

Westbound, the morning train now saves 18 minutes off the previous schedule, leaving Pontiac and Detroit at 5:50 a.m. and 6:33 a.m. Eastern time, respectively, and arriving in Chicago at 10:32 a.m. Central time.

The mid-day train now runs seven minutes faster overall, leaving Pontiac at 10:45 a.m. and Detroit at 11:30 a.m. Eastern (both 10 minutes later than the previous schedule), while arriving in Chicago at 3:50 p.m. Central instead of 3:57 p.m.

The evening Wolverine has the biggest overall change and time saving – 31 minutes less travel time than the previous schedule thanks to a shorter travel time from Pontiac to Detroit (now 43 minutes instead of one hour and three minutes). The train now leaves Pontiac at 5:20 p.m. and Detroit at 6:03 p.m. Eastern, as opposed to 5:40 p.m. and 6:23 p.m. on the old schedule. 

It then also picks up minutes between Dearborn and Ann Arbor (now 30 minutes instead of 34), between Ann Arbor and Battle Creek (now 90 minutes instead of 94), and between Battle Creek and Kalamazoo (now 24 minutes instead of 28) to arrive in Chicago at 10:25 p.m. Central time.

On the Blue Water (Chicago-Port Huron, one round trip daily), the schedule for the morning Port Huron-Chicago train remains the same. And while the afternoon departure from Chicago still leaves Union Station at 4 p.m. Central time, it now arrives in Port Huron seven minutes earlier, at 11:31 p.m. Eastern time. The train begins making faster time after Dowagiac – it still leaves Dowagiac at 6:43 p.m. Eastern, but now arrives in Kalamazoo one minute earlier, at 7:11 p.m., and seven minutes earlier in Battle Creek, at 7:38 p.m.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) purchased 135 miles of the rail corridor between Kalamazoo and Dearborn from Norfolk Southern Railway (NS) in 2012. Thanks to $347 million in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding and High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program funding, MDOT was able to acquire and improve the line by replacing worn railroad track and smoothing curves for higher speeds; upgrading railroad crossings and signals for train and motorist safety, and upgrading the train signaling and communication system for efficient operations.

Outside of MDOT ownership, a new bridge connection was installed in west Detroit allowing for a faster connection for trains bound for Detroit, Royal Oak, Troy, and Pontiac; Amtrak has made continual maintenance improvements to their infrastructure as well, 98 miles of track between Porter, Indiana and Kalamazoo, Michigan (the longest stretch of Amtrak-owned rail outside of the Northeast).

“Between Porter, Indiana, and Dearborn, this rail corridor is now dispatched by Amtrak staff, which ensures the efficient movement of passenger trains," said Tim Hoeffner, MDOT Office of Rail director. "We hope this encourages people to consider the train for their next trip, especially with upcoming construction and high traffic volumes along the I-94 corridor.”

Maximum speeds on the line is 110 mph on the Amtrak-owned section. On the MDOT-owned portion, the current maximum speed is 79 mph, but  that is expected to increase to 110 mph this year in certain sections once the testing of the positive train control system is completed and when new “Charger” locomotives are put into service.

Michael Frezell, MDOT communications manager, said work will continue in 2018 on the state-owned portion of the Wolverine route (Kalamazoo to Dearborn), including: replacing the Wayne Diamond and two turn outs; starting deck replacements on six small bridges; and approximately 16 miles of tie and surface replacement, although exact locations and length are dependent on estimated costs and available funding.

The schedule for the state-supported Pere Marquette (Chicago-Grand Rapids, one round trip daily) has not changed. The morning train still leaves Grand Rapids at 6 a.m. Eastern time and arrives in Chicago at 9:11 a.m. Central time; the evening train still leaves Chicago at 6:30 p.m. Central and arrives in Grand Rapids at 11:39 p.m. Eastern.

NOTE: This story was corrected on February 7 with additional information on westbound Wolverines from MDOT.

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